What Does It Mean To Be An Ally?

By Charleen Sculley and Marla Berggoetz

Together….making health and well being a reality!

           As we strive to live our mission and values on a day-to-day basis, it is important to reflect on our successes and identify areas for growth. Aspire’s “PILLAR” values spill over into every detail, making an impact on consumers and employees. Given the depth and breadth of our values, we will always have room to grow! Today we would like to look at what it means to be an ally and think about how this aligns with our values.



noun: ally, plural noun: allies

alt/: one that is associated with another as a helper: a person or group that provides assistance and support.  She has proven to be a valuable ally in the fight for better working conditions.

verb: side with or support (someone or something)

synonym: unite, combine, join (up), join forces, band together, team up, collaborate, side, align oneself, form an alliance, throw in one’s lot, make common cause.  (www.dictionary.com)

        Do we side with, support,and collaborate? Absolutely!  How can we communicate this support and acceptance to our staff, co-workers and consumers?  Aspire’s core values: People, Integrity, Laughter, Learning, Accountability, and Relationships already encompass the concept of being an “ally”. Let’s explore some thoughts and ideas about what it truly means to be an “ally”. There are times when each and every one of us needs an ally. That said, there are certain groups of people who are consistently marginalized. Minority groups, immigrants, African-Americans, women of color, those with disabilities, the Deaf and hard of hearing, the LGBTQ community, and more.

          Minority groups live with oppression in many forms.  Lack of adequate funding for quality education, fewer education opportunities, a lack of culturally appropriate health services, and often a marked economic disparity between the majority and the minority groups.  

          Those with disabilities may experience oppression in the form of neglect or being “helped” in a way that is enabling. They often do not receive appropriate help that would lead them to be empowered due to the ignorance of those who are trying to “help” them. Those with disabilities may experience “glass ceilings” and discrimination in employment opportunities, often being overlooked for advancement because they are “differently-abled”.

         Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are oppressed and marginalized when they are deprived of language and information in their own families, local school systems,  and when trying to access community resources. They are raised in an environment where education and gaining information is based solely on the ability to hear and speak. Information deprivation can cause physical and emotional harm, yet is frequently not even recognized by family members or service providers.       

        We know stepping up and becoming an ally can make a positive difference  in the lives of others, but where do we begin?  The first step simply requires being aware and recognizing a need. An effective ally provides support, ensures information is clear and understood, and then follows up to see that appropriate action is taken. (support, inform, and follow up.)

       At first glance, we may think providing support is a “no-brainer,” something we  do as a part of our role. Even so, it is important to ask those we work with if they feel supported. Keep in mind cultural differences, experiences with family, language barriers, education, and scant resources may indicate a need for additional support (more than the norm).

       Ensuring information is understood and accessible is critical. “Being a cultural ally is an ongoing strategic process in which we look at our personal and social resources, evaluate the environment we have helped to create, and decide what needs to be done.” (Charla Cannon, Jul 27, 2014)  Bottom-line, is the information necessary to be successful in the environment created being passed on received and understood? The information provided could be insufficient due to cultural differences, language barriers, or inaccessible technology. For the Deaf and those for whom English is a second language, information may need to be repeated in a variety of ways. An effective ally will come along side the individual, meet them where they are in their understanding, and check for comprehension.

       Allies are an asset to any organization. How can we be an ally? We can support diversity. For example: Attend or volunteer at a cultural celebration such as Black Expo, Indiana Latino Heritage Day, Disability Pride Parade, or Deaf Expo. Within Aspire  – establish a committee that represents diversity and works to assure our programs are accessible and inclusive for everyone, equally.  

      Diversity and Accessibility are a part of our core values at Aspire.  We do quite well in many areas!  We want to be culturally competent and fully accessible. We want to empower our employees and consumers to accomplish great things!  With diversity, cultural competence, and 100% accessibility, our message will be consistent with our values!   

This entry was posted in Deaf Services, Integrated Healthcare, Mental Health, Workplace Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s